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Dazzled and Deceived:Mimicry and Camouflage

About the Book

In nature thousands of creatures have perfected the art of deception – butterflies, moths, fish, birds, insects and snakes imitate other animals or their surroundings to protect themselves, attract or repel, to bluff, warn and to hide. Dazzled and Deceived tells the unique and fascinating story of mimicry and camouflage in science, art and the natural world. It take us on a journey of how some of the world’s most remarkable creatures have given up their secrets with far-ranging consequences: from the first examples of Darwin’s natural selection in action, the sophisticated method developed to protect troops in combat, a cure for Rhesus babies to some of the very latest breakthroughs in understanding the genetics of evolution. Dazzled and Deceived sheds new light on the greatest quest: to understand the processes of life at its deepest level.

First discovered in the 1850s by the young English naturalists Henry Walter Bates and Alfred Russel Wallace in the Amazonian rainforest, mimicry became the first confirmation of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Deep in the Amazon Leptalis butterflies, from a family of whites, were borrowing the external appearance of Ithomia a typical butterfly of the rainforest with black wings splashed with crimson, yellow and white patterns. From this very first discovery mimicry has become the test case in the battle for the true course of evolution. Until recently how living patterns are created, how they vary and how they are inherited were puzzles. Today, Evolutionary Developmental Biology draws closer to answering these questions and mimicry, particularly in butterflies, is at the heart of this work.

As Dazzled and Deceived unravels the mysteries of mimicry Peter Forbes introduces an intriguing cast of characters, battling for an understanding of mimicry and camouflage against sceptics and adversaries: Darwin himself; the eccentric American painter and naturalist Abbott Thayer; US President Theodore Roosevelt; Pablo Picasso; Winston Churchill; the novelist Vladimir Nabokov; the pioneer conservationist Sir Peter Scott; Hugh Cott, who taught a generation of soldiers how to profit from nature; Miriam Rothschild, with her nose for the toxic chemicals that insects use for protection. And, of course, the characters from nature: mocker butterflies, the mimic octopus, flower mantises and coral snakes – to name a few.

Dazzled and Deceived
About the Author

Peter Forbes is a writer, journalist and editor with a longstanding interest in the relationship between art and science. Before becoming a freelance writer and editor he was an editorial assistant at the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and a natural history desk editor for Equinox publishers in Oxford. For the last 10 years he has been researching current biological subjects, culminating in two books, The Gecko’s Foot and Dazzled and Deceived and writing columns and reviews for many magazines and newspapers.

Peter Forbes